Judy Collins August 31, 2006
Judy Collins Fills the Center with Greatness
By Glen Creason
You never mention a lady’s age but Judy Collins made her initial mark when a tank of gasoline was three bucks and the term folk-music was freshly minted. In the ensuing forty-odd years she has established herself as one of the pre-eminent songstresses on the planet and a truly admirable human being. She is the epitome of class, not just for her magnificent voice and quality of repertoire but for her beautiful mind and humanitarian selflessness. When Judy Collins comes to town the curve of humanity is bent upwards.
At a Cerritos midweek concert the great hall was packed to the rafters in testament to local good taste and the undying spirit of music that touches the heart and challenges the intellect. Looking wonderful with her snowy mane piled stylishly upon her pretty head, La Collins gave the Performing Arts Center more than their money’s worth on this night. Mixing fascinating stories and song with sharp humor and musical history she had the place eating out of her hand at the ten minute mark. She did not take it easy and sang for over an hour and a half, choosing demanding material and using her powerful voice to bring insight and emotion to some classics of fine songwriting. Opening with her hit from back in my salad days Judy Collins sang “Both Sides Now” with a clarity and power that took you back to vinyl comforts and followed that with the sweet ode to friendship “Song to Judith.” It did not take her long to strum the heartstrings and when she busted out Ed McCurdy’s classic song for peace “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” that was truly was like ice cold water for the parched soul. It was nice to see peace back in fashion, at least for one night.
Songwriters were at the forefront and the choices were delightfully eclectic from Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” to George Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” to Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” to Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans.” Yet, some of the best writing was by the lady herself, especially the exquisite “Since You’ve Asked,” the deeply evocative “My Father,” plus the pop sounding “Drops of Jupiter.” There was more contemporary work in the tear-jerking tribute to the martyred Firefighters of 9/11 titled “Kingdom Come” and a shout out to Katrina survivors, “Saints and Angels” which finished to a hall where only the wiping of eyes was heard. Then there were tunes where the voice was on display, such as the perfectly done “Kerry Dancers,” a dreamy “the Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” and a dear, stately old friend from the 60’s “the Albatross.” Still, the crowd could hardly contain themselves when the great lady topped off this extraordinary evening with a stunning encore of “Send in the Clowns.” Judy Collins is so busy trying to make the world a better place; it appears father time just can’t catch up to her.
The show was opened by a very fine; young songwriter from New York City named Kenny White. White wowed the Collins crowd with tough and insightful songs like “Never like This,” “Until You Learn” “Might as Well Leave” and the really potent “5 Girls” that deserves a place on every Ipod. His gutsy political statement “How Long” was enthusiastically received by about 68% of the audience. Overall, White showed extraordinary songwriting skills and mastery of the guitar and piano. Kudos to Judy Collins for spreading the good word on a musical find named Kenny White.